LARGE MARINE MAMMAL DATABASE
Gerry E. Studds Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS)
represents a significant feeding area for marine mammals in the
northwest Atlantic including endangered North Atlantic right,
humpback, and fin whales. In an effort to accurately provide for
the conservation of species and development of management plans,
the temporal and spatial distribution of each marine mammal species
occurring in SBNMS needs to be identified and documented. In 2001,
NOAA contracted Perot Systems to develop a single data source
combining both the Whale Center of New England (WCNE) and the
Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies' (PCCS') whale sightings/densities
datasets to support sanctuary management needs.
database includes visual sighting data for multiple marine mammal
species, with fields comprised of effort, species, latitude, longitude,
date, and time. For certain species, minimum/maximum ranges of
pod size were also included. Basic weather and vessel track data
was included in order to provide a basis for evaluating sighting
effort and conditions. PCCS provided cetacean sighting data obtained
aboard commercial whale watching and research platforms within
the boundaries of the SBNMS. WCNE also provided data collected
from daily whale watch vessels and research vessel cruises.
five year contract resulted in a database made up of over 350,000
individual sightings (a rate of approximately 14,600 observations
per year from 1979 to present). These data were instrumental SBNMS
and NOAA Fisheries planning efforts to shift the Boston Traffic
Separation Scheme (shipping lanes into and out of the Port of
Boston) to reduce the risk of collisions between whales and vessels.
kriged density plot of all baleen whale sightings in Stellwagen
Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Credit: Michael Thompson.